Kelly O’Connor

Drawing on the allegory of American consciousness through the use of iconic characters, my work is derived from a combination of memory, fantasy, and pop culture. The mythological characters, built around enduring western cultural ideals, make up much of my subconscious. My work is, to a great extent, about exposing the duality behind thin public façades that we readily embrace.

Throughout history we continue to struggle with aspirations and contradictions represented in popular culture. Many of the female characters have a look of artificial bliss or antidepressant-driven happiness, while many of the male characters represent the ominous “man behind the curtain.” At times they are hypnotized or controlled by intoxicating products or appliances.

The scenes I create are the calcified remains of a culture focused on production and destruction, such as in The Rise and Fall, 2012. By appropriating idealized American landscapes, including Carlsbad Caverns and Yellowstone National Park, and creating a non-linear narrative, I intentionally leave the situation ambiguous in order for the viewer to relate their own experiences to the suggested scenarios. My intention is to create an immortal or dreamlike space, such as one that could only exist in a person’s subconscious.

Playing with color and scale is central to my process. Sickly sweet, candy-colored surfaces are juxtaposed with colored paper sampled from vintage record covers. The contrast of sparkling rays and bright neon against weathered, dull tones acts as a metaphor for dualities within our society. Appropriated images, enlarged from their original source to exaggerate their apparent content, introduce nostalgic and familiar themes that provide a rich access point for the viewer. These images are drawn from film and popular magazines, primarily from the 1950’s and 1960’s. I prefer this time period because the line quality of the drawings is minimal and the subjects are rich with American idealism.

“In collage, works on paper, and installation-based work, O’Connor’s familiar subjects undergo surreal, psychedelic, hypnotic, and other unsettling transformations.”
–Rene Barilleaux, Chief Curator, The McNay Art Museum

Represented by David Shelton Gallery, Houston, TX

Works Available
Ruiz-Healy Gallery San Antonio, TX
Feliz Modern San Antonio, TX